After a long, draining Monday I sat down with my friends to watch the first episode of the most recent “Scooby Doo” spin-off series, “Velma.” By the time the credits were rolling, I was even more exhausted.
The episode was only 25 minutes long and none of it made sense. From its uber-wokeness, unwanted character redesign and awful jokes – I want my 25 minutes back.
Surprisingly, my exhaustion did not stem from “Velma” being yet another boring, drawn-out retelling of the same meddling kids solving mysteries. But instead because of how badly they have butchered one of my favorite cartoon characters.
From the beginning, Velma narrates her own story. She speaks of taking back ownership of the creation of the mystery gang, thereby remedying her image and rectifying the perception of origin stories.
“I’ve decided to finally share the bone-chilling events that drove me to assemble the greatest team of spooky mystery solvers ever,” Velma said. “Yeah, it was me. Not Fred and his weird sex van.”
She goes on to say that this is her story and she’s telling it her own way. Well, I’m not sure I’m enjoying her story so far.
Following her monologue, the show portrays teenage girls showering in a locker room with nothing but carefully placed suds to cover them. They all say terrible things to each other, two of them get in a fight – still naked by the way – and a strange hooded figure busts into the locker room. That figure turns out to be Velma, who shoves her ex-best friend Daphne to the ground.
After she unmasks herself, Daphne accuses Velma of almost killing her. Velma replies with a prompt, “Well, I guess I didn’t try hard enough.”
And the showrunners, trying ever so hard to be meta, place a character in between the naked teenager and unmasked Velma to say, “See? Now if this was a show, it’d be super hot if you two kissed.”
Why is it, I wonder, that we are still sexualizing teenage girls in 2023? This unanswered question is just one of my many qualms with the show.
After the bizarre locker room encounters – still only 3 minutes in by the way – Velma opens her locker to find a dead body, sans brain, falling out of it. Thus, introducing us to the first conflict of the series: a murder with Velma as the prime suspect.
As a child, I loved the original “Scooby Doo” cartoons and related most to Velma. She is the uncredited leader of the mystery gang, who decides which mysteries they solve. She is loveable, quirky and nerdy, with undeniable coded queerness. My intense love for this character makes this reboot even more disappointing because they ruined her.
As we neared the end of the episode my friend, Khalila Simon, a first-year from Pontiac, summed it up best.
“My whole childhood just got torn into pieces,” Simon said.
HBO Max’s Velma is whiny, bratty and has no friends. Her primary crush is Fred, who pretends he cannot see her because he has a medical condition that makes him blind to ugly people. The only friend she has who wants to be around her is Norville, who is hopelessly in love with her and will presumably later become Shaggy. Her enemy, at least in the first episode, is her ex-best friend Daphne who left her to become popular.
Looking at these descriptions, I have some semblance of hope that there will be character development and that Velma will become the character I know and love; hopefully with legitimate and true queerness attached.
But as of episode one, I’m not counting on it.